Women serve on many of Truckee’s district boards
Truckee is home to a host of women leaders who serve their community in public office. This week, the Sierra Sun will continue its series on women in politics, featuring more women elected to public office in Truckee.
The women involved in local politics bring different backgrounds and perspectives to the public process, and the Association of American University Women Truckee Chapter is encouraging women to get involved in local politics.
– Suzanne Prouty, TTUSD board president
Running for a Tahoe-Truckee Unified School District board seat four years ago was not something Suzanne Prouty ever thought she would do.
With three young children in the school district, she had always taken a very active role in involving herself with the schools as well as other happenings in the community. But serving on a board had never crossed her mind.
“I would never have thought of it myself,” Prouty said.
In fact, the idea was first brought up when she returned from a trip to India for a Rotary function. She was asked by Cliff Hartwell, whose TTUSD board term was ending, to consider running at her welcome back party.
“I think I’m a very typical woman,” Prouty said. “So it was humbling to realize I would never consider running if I hadn’t been asked. I thought about it, and I realized, ‘I can do that.’ For a lot of women, it takes being asked.”
Although she was extremely busy, serving on the school board was a natural fit. As executive director of Truckee Group Individual Family (TGIF), mediation and consulting in the corporate setting, as well as leadership roles in other community organizations (former president of AAUW), most of Prouty’s skills revolve around teaching others communication and facilitating.
“My major interest in education is I really believe in democracy,” she said. “I think it liberates people from old belief systems … Education levels that playing field.”
Prouty explained that she was not raised in an environment that encouraged women to take leadership roles or participate in politics. It was something she developed on her own – it just came naturally.
“My mom was a ’60s mom, a stay-home mom,” she said. “But since I was in the fourth grade, I have always been asked to take leadership roles.”
She considers her school board term as her way of giving back and serving her community, something she believes is important for kids to learn at an early age.
“It’s my community service,” she said.
But serving on a public board was a different kind of work for Prouty. New skills were required.
“As far as being on a board, I was always the one answerable to boards,” she said. “I had to learn how to ask questions.”
Unlike the gender makeup of many of the other public agency boards in town, when Prouty began her term, there were three women and two men school board members. Currently, there are four women board members and one male member.
“We do have strong women on the board,” she said. She explained that sociologically, women are more into networking and relationships than men, behaviors that schools perpetuate, and that is one reason serving on the school board is a comfortable position for a woman.
With three children – one in high school, one in middle school and one in elementary school -a husband and full-time work, Prouty admits the extra 20 hours a week she puts in for the school board can be taxing.
Fortunately, she said, her family works as her support network.
“My husband and I have a really strong relationship and we’re very kids focused. We both do whatever it takes,” she said. They share responsibilities around the house and take turns taking the kids to sports practices and games. Her older kids help out quite a bit too.
“You can’t do it all yourself. It’s hard,” she said.
Prouty said she will mostly likely not run for another term in November, when her current term is up. She hopes to go back and get her doctorate in psychology in myth in the fall.
But she will always remain interested and active in education. She’s seen quite a few changes in the district in the past four years, and expects to see many more in the near future.
“I think where we are in the school district mirrors what’s happening in the whole country. Our school district was a reflection of the local community when I first came on – it was smaller and simpler,” she said. “Now, with bigger technology, there are wonderful changes … but, I am concerned about kids growing up too fast.”
Janet Brady, Truckee-Donner Park and Recreation District board member
Health and fitness is present in every facet of Janet Brady’s life.
From being a former elite track and field athlete, a long distance swimmer, a PSIA certified ski instructor to her job as Director of Health Promotions for Tahoe Forest Hospital and the Community Wellness Center, her dedication to health prevention and early detection is obvious.
Most recently, Brady’s participation in The Breast Cancer Fund’s Mt. Fuji 2000 Truckee-Tahoe Climbing Team has enabled her to support breast cancer prevention and early detection.
When Brady moved to Truckee 16 years ago, recreation was an integral part of her life. Becoming a board member for the Truckee-Donner Recreation and Park District just made sense for her lifestyle.
“I was always interested (in the TDRPD) since moving to Truckee because I think recreation is such an important part of health,” Brady said. “When I became a mother, it became more important to me.”
Brady’s main objective in running for a TDRPD board seat is to help Truckee youth as well as older adults enjoy healthy activities.
“Literally, the main objective is to help them choose a healthy lifestyle,” she said.
While she is extremely busy with health promotions projects and events in the Truckee-Tahoe community and her two sons, Maclane and Calvin, ages 4 and 8, she somehow manages to fit it all in. She admits she thrives off of constant chaos.
“(Serving on the board) is important to me, so I figure out a way to squeeze it in,” Brady said. “Sure, it’s tough on the night of board meetings when I just want to go home and be with my kids, but it’s important.”
She said she couldn’t do it without the help of her husband, Mark, who has the same interests and goals as herself and the support and help of her mom, Lois Fletcher.
“It’s a team effort,” she said. “I don’t know how single parents do it.”
Brady is almost finished serving her first term, which ends this year, and said since she began serving she has seen the district grow and interaction among staff and community members and agencies improve. She said she hopes to run again when her term ends.
“I think we’ve made a lot of progress,” she said. She is excited about projects the district has completed or become a part of, including the teen activity center, the skateboard park and the KidZone project.
She is the only women currently serving on the TDRPD board and this is the first board on which she served.
“I think it’s good to have both genders represented on the board,” she said. “I encourage more women to run for offices.”
In April, Brady was appointed as an at-large delegate for the Health Promotions Institute on National Council on the Aging. The national council meets twice a year to discuss new and current programs for seniors.
Brady said she was nominated for her work with older adults and fitness and her “Fitness Forever – The Exercise Program for Healthy Aging” which she co-developed and produced. The video has received numerous national awards.
“I feel very honored because it’s my peers and colleagues across the nation who recognize my work,” she said. “I’m very excited. Put me in a room with policy makers and I’ll never shut up.”
Barbara Green, Nevada County 5th District Supervisor
Barbara Green’s involvement in politics began with stuffing envelopes.
Because she loves the outdoors and the environment, she offered to stuff envelopes as the Midpeninsula Regional Open Space District was being created in Sunnyvale, Calif. where she lived and raised her children before moving to Truckee.
“I had just been an interested citizen and interested in the outdoors,” Green explained. “Once an interested citizen gets involved, they naturally get involved in many other things to give back to the community.”
Soon Green was involved in the planning for the open space district. When a seat became vacant, Green said she was asked to run.
“At first I thought, ‘I can’t do that,'” she said. “But then I thought, ‘if I don’t do it, someone else may do it and I may not like the way they do it, and so therefore, I’d better do it.'”
She was reelected to that seat three times, and her involvement in the community expanded from there.
“You get more and more involved in the community when you find out how much you can give,” Green said.
When she left Sunnyvale and moved to Truckee nine years ago, she had to resign from six boards.
She had three children when she first became active, and remembers taking her youngest daughter, Sarah, at the age of two to board meetings.
“She sat on my lap and colored and didn’t interrupt anything,” she said. “I involved her from the beginning, at a really young age. I think seeing her mom so involved in the community so young played a role in the her giving back to her community as she does now.”
As she became involved in the Truckee community, she was asked to be on the planning commission.
When she ran for Nevada County 5th District Supervisor in the primaries in March, she ran against two men, defeating both.
“I’m just so pleased that I won in the primary because I think it’s a statement for Truckee, for women in politics, for community activists and for environmentalists,” she said of her victory.
As the region stands of the brink of major growth and change, Green said she is excited to be part of the planning process.
“It’s been a good ‘ole boy county and its changing,” she said. “Truckee and Nevada County are going to grow and we really need to evaluate how it happens.”
Green works as a full-time realtor in addition to her public agency participation.
“If I had a time clock punching job, I probably couldn’t do this sort of thing,” she said. “But I can still fit it in with my regular schedule. My message to other women is: you can do this too.”
With the elections approaching in November and numerous board seats opening up, Green said it’s time to get more women involved in local politics.
“This is an opportunity to get women interested in running for town council and other board positions,” she said.
“A woman’s approach to decision-making can be different. Typically we don’t make our minds up ahead of time. Sometimes it’s really a struggle with what the right thing to do,” she said.
“Women think they are born in a certain role in life and they really are capable of doing a lot more.”
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